Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shame on you

'Just let me leave', the black man says to the police. 'It's only me', he adds, making it clear that he wants to leave the protest and go on his way. It's not clear if he is even a protester.

'And I'm telling you, you're not [leaving]' says a white female police officer.
Two other police officers shove him, then a third. They're all white as well, not that this makes a difference.

'What are you doing?...easy!' the man who wants to leave remonstrates, as he tumbles backwards. The crowd see the shoves, three shoves, from three police officers and anger rises. This is a vigil, it has been peaceful, with chanting and flag waving. But now it is kicking off.

One very small woman is particularly upset. 'What are you fucking doing? You're SCUM!' she shouts, angrily, advancing on a copper who is easily a foot and a half taller than her, who has hidden his badge number.

She either pokes him, or gesticulates towards him, he shoves her, then he casually raises his black-gauntleted hand and backhanded-slaps her in the face; she staggers back and comes back at him, pointing to her own face, challenging him about what he has just done. His response is to draw his baton, and lash out viciously at the back of her legs. She falls to the floor.

'Shame! Shame! Shame on you!' roar the crowd.

'There's nothing to see', says an officer, asking those who are frantically filming the assault to turn away.

Turn away? How can you turn away?

I have only seen the footage of woman advancing on the copper and being struck shown on the news, but it needs to be seen as part of the whole series. She's defending the right of a man to leave the demo, a man who has been pushed and shoved quite deliberately, and provocatively, and contemptuously, by three officers.

This is not even on the big day of protests: it's the following day, when a small group - angry, but peaceful, as I said, fewer than 200 men and women - gather to commemorate the death of Ian Tomlinson, who fell and died when he was walking home and was caught up in the protests and behind the police lines the previous day. You can see more footage here: it is not violent.

I have a great respect for the police; they have helped me and people I love and respect on several occasions and I even dedicated my book to four named police officers. It is completely sickening to see the police losing it like this. It's frightening, and horrible, and how we are going to pick up the pieces and go forward I do not know, because once trust is gone - and at the moment, trust in those who are public servants charged to protect and serve the people of this country - especially police and politicians - is seriously damaged - that is something that is dangerous for us all. When police are seen as the enemy, when all politicians are seen as liars on the make, we all lose. We all lose.

You have to be able to walk about in the world feeling that you are basically free to go about your business, to speak out, to live and love and work as you want to without causing harm; that you are not under suspicion, not at risk of violence or censorship or bullying just for being who you are, believing what you believe , and that if you or your property are harmed, there will be justice and redress.

Once that goes, everything goes. And that's why speaking out about abuses and injustice is important, tiresome and unpopular though it is. Before it gets too late.

I'm so bloody glad that everyone carries cameras. Sometimes being the media is the only way.

UPDATE: And the Guardian has collated more video evidence of G20 weekend brutality, which has been doing the rounds on the net for a while and has now gone mainstream. I doubt anyone who reads this blog is remotely surprised, but it gives me no damn pleasure to publish it, none at all.


Blogger mostlyhappy said...

Too right.

Yes the police do a lot of good, and on the whole are good people doing a difficult job. But they need to be kept in check in order to do that job properly.

It's good that the last week of protests has brought their increasing heavy-handedness to the attention of everyone, so that this worrying trend can be reversed before it's too late.

April 14, 2009 10:56 pm  
Blogger jailhouselawyer said...

What annoys me is with all those police officers there not one of them arrested the police officer for breaking the law and assaulting the woman!

April 15, 2009 10:43 am  
Blogger Brennig said...

That was very timely. Thanks. I'll link to this from the Hillsborough piece.

April 15, 2009 3:52 pm  
Blogger Not a sheep said...

And you wonder why the Labour government brought in legislation to make it illegal to film a policeman?

April 15, 2009 6:57 pm  
Blogger Martin Budden said...

You are right. When police are seen as the enemy we all lose. I believe the vast majority of the police are trustworthy. How to move forward? I don't know.

I'm not sure if it will have any effect, but I've started approaching police officers I see on the street. I say hello. I say I think they are doing a great job and that I support them. And then I say that I am upset and disappointed about the events that have happened in the city. I say I think a few of their colleagues are bringing down the reputation of the whole force. And I say I think they should tell their immediate colleagues. I'm polite and respectful when I say these things. If enough people start doing this, I think it will have an effect.

April 15, 2009 9:20 pm  
Blogger Roger Thornhill said...

It is so important to put the context.

The original version I saw on the MSM began as the voices were already raised and the woman already engaged. This makes it hard to see the context and so SHOULD make one think what the woman had been saying. You never know and it is irritating when everyone gets up in arms before the full story is known (not that I am condoning the actions at all, but we need all the evidence, you know). It is important not to knee jerk and that clip I saw was annoying as it was by no means totally one sided IF THAT WAS ALL THAT IT WAS. The MSM did a disservice to the hit woman by clipping it as they did.

However, you see why everyone got upset, why voices were raised - they were raised because of what was happening beforehand.

The police kicked that off as far as I can tell.

p.s. can we have Police who look something other than a shopaholic with a membership card from Screwfix?

April 16, 2009 10:03 am  
Blogger DAVE BONES said...

Nice one Martin. I have been employing the chat to them tactic on demos for years. There are a few too many of them who have been able to get away with a bit too much for a bit too long thats all. They are a lot worse anywhere else in the world but if Tomlinsons death is for anything it is a chance to nip this in the bud, I hope.

April 17, 2009 1:16 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home